This year, the team at EDM.com is proud to publish four installments of "Best of 2020" coverage: Industry Leaders, Performances, Music Producers, and Songs.
When COVID-19 stomped on the sandcastles of the live music industry and its countless venues, the streaming world mushroomed due to a massive influx of new music. With nowhere to share their art but the blue light of our devices, producers turned to streaming platforms and released new music at a breakneck pace in 2020.
With so much new music offered by EDM's artist community, it would be unfair to its diverse range of creators to publish a nebulous blanket list of the year's top songs. So to highlight the best songs of the year, we've chosen ten of the most popular sub-genres of dance music and recognized five tracks from each.
Check out a playlist below, followed by a breakdown of each individual song from each genre.
“Douha (Mali Mali)” - Disclosure & Fatoumata Diawara
Released alongside a colorful and uplifting music video, the bubbly “Douha (Mali Mali)” is an ode to Fatoumata Diawara’s native Mali. Beyond its production, Disclosure's ENERGY cut stood out by centering itself structurally around Diawara’s lyrics and soulful top-line, which breathes with genuine authenticity and inescapable groove.
“Both Of Us” - Jayda G
Jayda G’s imminent rise to superstardom begins here. “Both Of Us” is one of the brightest house gems to come out of the dance music zeitgeist this year, luring listeners in with it’s undeniably catchy chords and intoxicating beat. The track is a masterclass in dance music production, with an ingenious tempo switch towards its conclusion that brings it home with the joie de vivre of a seasoned music producer.
“Lost” - Holiday87
The debut single from Holiday87—the solo project of Ben Ruttner of The Knocks—was one of aching melancholy, an ethos that was beautifully ensconced in a deep house backbone. Interpolating a sample from Los Yesterdays' "I Can't Feel,” Holiday87 delivered one of the best and most underrated house tracks of the year.
“HEART ATTACK (feat. lau.ra)" - BRONSON
Though fans didn’t quite know what was coming, expectations were sky-high for the debut of BRONSON, a supergroup composed of ODESZA and Golden Features. Fortunately, when the group’s lead single “HEART ATTACK” was released, fans immediately knew they were in for something special. Striking a particularly haunting chord, lau.ra’s vocals and the track’s ominous atmosphere have left a lasting impression.
“La Femme Fantastique (feat. Josh Caffe) - Honey Dijon
There may not be a more stylish house song released in 2020 than Honey Dijon's “La Femme Fantastique." The metallic synths, expertly programmed drums, and catchy vocals courtesy of Josh Caffe have the power to instill confidence in Dijon's listeners, posing in the mirror even if they just got out of bed.
“Nuclear Bass Face (feat. Boogie T)” - NGHTMRE & Subtronics
“Nuclear Bass Face” breaks the mold by bringing together the distinct styles of NGHTMRE, Subtronics, and Boogie T into one comprehensive ode to the intersection of dubstep and riddim. The track succeeds with a grandiose, room-filling drop composed of robust bass, rippling chords, and a roaring soundscape of dub synths. It's set to be a crowd favorite once it hits the live show circuit.
“Glass Planet” - Aweminus
One of dubstep’s brightest young stars, Aweminus is strapped into a rocketship to superstardom. His February 2020 track “Glass Planet” is a standout in his mind-melting catalog. Released via Never Say Die: Black Label, the single is a testament to the Vegas producer’s ability to craft beautiful melodies while somehow remaining under a menacing dubstep umbrella.
"Instance" - Voltra
The highlight of the impressive Halcyon Sound, Vol. 1 showcase from Oolacile’s new imprint, Voltra’s "Instance" flaunts tight and intricate production that makes for not just a track, but a journey. This one can’t really be categorized as “future riddim” alone—it paints a picture of some of dubstep’s most tantalizing sounds in a cohesive, sonically shimmering package.
“Get Crazy” - Jantsen & Mersiv
While this track’s single titular lyric serves as a not-so-subtle hint at the mood Mersiv and Jantsen were going for with “Get Crazy,” even under a different name this May 2020 release would have the desired effect. A bona fide banger chock full of unrelenting, face-melting bass and heavily distorted trap synths, this song pushes the boundaries of dubstep with its ferocious energy and forward-thinking sound design.
"HYPER BLOXXD" - Ducky
Blossoming bass music young gun Ducky made a splash back in May with "HYPER BLOXXD," a wonky dubstep bomb that is not for the faint of heart. The track's bubbly verses moonlight as a siren song that leads its listeners to something much more sinister, as they make way for a gritty bass bridge that eventually culminates in a screeching drop. Known for their aversion to genre standards and proclivities for old school rave music, the prodigious Los Angeles-based artist made a statement with this one.
“Detox” - Duke & Jones
Fast-rising UK duo Duke & Jones stomped their way through Zeds Dead’s Deadbeats imprint back in May with their thunderous Solace EP. The record’s opening track “Detox” is an undeniable standout, and a formidable display of bass music production. Frenetic stabs run roughshod throughout its drops, each of which are maelstroms that roar with maniacal sound design.
“You Should Run - Moore Kismet & Pauline Herr
With a workhorse mentality and a renegade-like approach to genre standards, Moore Kismet emerged as one of the bass music scene’s brightest stars in 2020. It could be argued that “You Should Run,” one of their most forward-thinking tracks created alongside Pauline Herr, couldn't be further from the artist's trap-minded origins. However, with its magnificently arranged second drop, Kismet cohesively linked "You Should Run" with their past work, effortlessly demonstrating their knack for reimagining trap music into their own unique production style.
“Blast Yo Head” - Dirty Audio & Flosstradamus
When Dirty Audio arrived on Yellow Claw’s Barong Family imprint with his Inferno EP, fans were treated to a song-cycle of thunderous bass music that yearned for the mainstages of pre-pandemic yesteryear. A standout track from the record is “Blast Yo Head,” a wild trap cut produced in collaboration with one of the genre’s pioneering artists, Flosstradamus. The song is downright nasty, a whipping 145 BPM centrifuge of thick 808s and vicious bass patches.
"Replicant (Hydraulix Remix)" - Delta Heavy & Kuuro
Delta Heavy’s Only In Dreams album was remixed by some truly impressive producers this year. Australian bass music kingpin Hydraulix’s hybrid trap take on “Replicant,” a collaboration with KUURO, was an emphatic standout that saw one-of-a-kind sound design and some serious bass firepower.
“Mother Africa” - TroyBoi
TroyBoi showed his unwavering appetite to shake the status quo with his late 2020 single “Mother Africa.” In a tribute to his Nigerian roots, he assembled one of the most unique jungle trap releases in recent memory, complete with tribal instrumentation and a hard, chant-driven drop that lets the 808s do the heavy lifting. It’s safe to say TroyBoi has become the gold standard in trap.
“Nightlight (feat. Annika Wells)” - ILLENIUM
ILLENIUM and Annika Wells have proven to be a match made in heaven in the past, so it’s no surprise that their latest collaboration “Nightlight” is their best yet. Tugging on listeners' heartstrings once again, the duo's latest dance music triumph bursts at the seams with melancholic guitar riffs and euphoric synths.
“worthy” (Prblm Child Remix)" - San Holo
Prblm Child put a dreamy retro spin on future bass with his take on San Holo’s gorgeous track “worthy.” The remix's atmospheric pads and clever vocal processing made the original's top-line sound almost saxophonic, and subtle foley shots give this soulful twist an organic feeling that rendered it a natural fit on Holo's bitbird banner.
"Hope It Hurts (feat. Essenger)" - Dabin
Dabin and Essenger’s “Hope It Hurts” is a crushing, emotional release that cuts to the core. Dabin, who has skyrocketed to prominence on the back of a high-energy, rock-influence style of future bass, opted for a dramatic change in tone on this record. The poetic, contemplative vocals from Essenger left listeners hanging on his every word as the wave of emotions are amplified by Dabin’s sweeping sonic textures.
“Rain” - Papa Khan
From the moment it was teased online, Papa Khan’s breakthrough future riddim masterpiece, "Rain," became an instant favorite and one of the most anticipated bass music releases of the year. The final product and its addicting and chaotic melody delivered on all fronts, spicing up the future bass genre with a heavy, hybrid sound.
“I Had Just Woken Up From A Short Nap” - Louis The Child
Though it’s difficult to take any track off Louis the Child’s Candy 2 out of its mixtape context, “I Had Just Woken Up From A Short Nap” easily stands on its own with its classically future bass exuberance. Its 74-second length offers just a taste of the prodigious nature with which the duo produces their signature sound—especially as instrumental one-offs—and leaves listeners wanting much, much more.
Drum & Bass
“Independent” - Halogenix
“Independent,” a standout track from Halogenix’s spring EP Dragonforce, saw the London producer flex his ability to bring raw emotion to the genre with almost no intelligible lyrics. Minimal yet precise production combined with soulful vocals makes “Independent'' one of those songs that—when you close your eyes—takes you back to an idyllic, carefree dancefloor in the city.
“Turn The Lights Off” - Sub Focus & Wilkinson
Portals, a collaborative drum & bass album by Sub Focus and Wilkinson released in September, is comprised of an endless array of genre gems, but “Turn The Lights Off” takes the cake with its euphoric, pulsing chords and relentless pursuit of momentum. A smooth launch into its masterstroke of a break propels the track to an energetic finish, making it a model display of the power drum & bass has to move and shake any listener.
“Driver” - Pendulum
After a ten-year hiatus, Pendulum returned in 2020 with a vengeance, dropping two new tracks and proving they haven't lost a step. Making an emphatic return to the genre that helped catapult them to international stardom, the legendary group finally unveiled "Driver," a thunderous, cold-blooded drum & bass hit oozing with the ferocity of a classic Pendulum song.
“Saviour (feat. Sharlene Hector)” - Dimension
The highlight of an incredible year of releases for Dimension, “Saviour” is the perfect blend of energy and emotion. Sharlene Hector’s stentorian voice churns along with a mesmeric subcurrent atop the spellbinding production of Dimension, who pulled out all the stops with his beautifully nuanced drum & bass production. The track will appear on his highly anticipated Organ LP, which is due out in March 2021.
“I See The Future In Your Eyes” - Netsky
A decade after his debut album release on Hospital Records, Netsky announced he would be releasing Second Nature, an album that promised to be a return to the producer’s drum & bass roots. While the news gripped the attention of his earliest fans, it wasn’t until Netsky dropped the lead single “I See The Future In Your Eyes” that they had the confirmation they’d been hoping for. The track builds at a leisurely pace, layering in elegant melodic elements before a satisfying explosion of powerful drums and soaring synths take control of this surefire festival pleaser.
“CRT Days” - Waveshaper
Video game and film composer Waveshaper lent a cinematic touch in “CRT Days,” conjuring up mental montages of late-night drives and flashing neon lights. Backed by a steadily progressing beat and intuitively-designed synths, the track’s rousing, transportive melody adds an artistic dimension beyond the novelty of its retro sonics.
“Deep Blue” - The Midnight
The heartbreaking lyrical content and darkened, retro synths of The Midnight's "Deep Blue" are powerful enough to leave those born in 2000 nostalgic about the 80s. Continuing to show why they are the leaders in the synthwave genre, they hit every target that makes up a great synthwave track, also including some of their fan-favorite saxophone work in infuse tinctures of soul.
“Feel It” - Power Glove
Named after the Nintendo Power Glove, Australian duo Power Glove is quickly rising in the ranks of the synthwave genre and EDM scene at large. Harnessing a sound that is ideal for video game soundtracks due its lush, cyberpunk-influenced sound design, they have become in-demand composers. In addition to producing the soundtrack to the popular video game Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, their track "Feel It" was recently featured on the Netflix docuseries High Score, which explores the early development of the most influential video games in history.
“The Return” - PYLOT
The elusive cyclist Pylot hasn’t hesitated to add some bite to his smooth synthwave singles, and there’s no better example highlighting the unique lane he’s carved for himself than “The Return.” The track incorporates grungy guitar riffs, punchy bass, and is capped off by a fierce guitar solo.
“Night Skies” - The Midnight
The Midnight have long championed synthwave in the mainstream, and they continued to do so in 2020 with their latest album Monsters. “Night Skies” perfectly embodies the album, with celestial synths and digitized vocals that are reminiscent of a retrowave Daft Punk.
“Sgadi Li Mi” - Charlotte de Witte
With a hammering four-on-the-floor beat and throbbing percussive tones, Charlotte de Witte's “Sgadi Li Mi” rose above the pack in a year of massive releases for the Belgian techno maven. Its emotive use of rhythmic breaks and ethereal background vocals asserts dominance early on, crafting quietly stirring moments to give the song a sensitive potency that is a rarity for techno styles. de Witte, however, pulls off this unique twist with ease.
“Higher” - Amelie Lens
Amelie Lens' “Higher” comes out of the box hot with a pounding bassline and sporadic yet subtle synths. Following the track's release, the barnstorming dance music star crafted yet another dominant techno heater to add to her jaw-dropping arsenal of tracks.
“Phobos” - Space 92
Following its September release, Space 92’s “Phobos” quickly became a favorite in the electronic music world, garnering support from Andrew Rayel, Gabriel & Dresden, and Charles D, among myriad others. The French techno mastermind produced a gritty yet mesmerizing masterstroke that bursts at the seams with grimy acid house influences. And at a languid length of 7:26, the track lends itself to an atmosphere wherein time stands still.
“You Are Your Own Destruction” - KAS:ST
KAS:ST delivered as usual with this previously unreleased, arpeggio-soaked journey of a track. Powerful melodies and an epic breakdown lead straight into a pure techno groove complete with an eerie, pitched vocal sample.
“7 Mile Dog” - Robert Hood
Following the release of his outstanding Mirror Man record, Detroit legend Robert Hood delivered some of his best minimal techno tracks to date. With masterful production and intricate sound design that’s easy to get lost in, “7 Mile Dog” is truly a track that only someone with decades of experience could produce.
“ATOMIC” - 13
Genres be damned, 13 released “ATOMIC” back in February and held no punches. Arriving on deadmau5’s mau5trap imprint with a vengeance, the enigmatic producer uncorked a downright filthy midtempo track that churns with the industrial intensity of a pre-pandemic warehouse rave. Flexing his sound design muscles, 13 brilliantly deconstructed the second drop, opting for a hypnotic yet ferocious segment that is reminiscent of minimalism at its finest.
“Into The Abyss” - Zeds Dead & REZZ
A collaboration between REZZ and Zeds Dead had been a long time coming, and “Into The Abyss” was certainly worth the wait. With a comprehensive blend of the artists’ signature styles, the track’s dark and restless drop sequence is an expert synthesis of trap, midtempo and blistering bass, plunging the listener directly into its all-consuming sonic world and demonstrating their versatility in the studio.
“Feel Your Noise” - Mechanical Vein & Faderhead
Midtempo met industrial with this release from the rising Mechanical Vein and one of the industrial genre's veteran artists, Faderhead. The vibe is dark and sexy, and the energy peaks with an alarm-like synth to tie the heavy, distorted elements together beautifully.
“Shadow” - Blanke
Blanke’s blistering track “Shadow,” which appeared on the Los Angeles-based producer’s Change & Decay: The Fall EP, is a memorable entry into the chronicles of the midtempo genre. While rooted in midtempo at 114 BPM, the track slithers with a nasty electro vigor. Tinctures of dubstep sound design are subtly interpolated throughout the genre-bending arrangement as well, which at times has the cadence of a breakbeat banger.
“Someone Else” - REZZ and Grabbitz
The many sounds of REZZ have a habit of striking an eerily haunting chord, but the feeling reached a new level when combined with the slightly paranoid vocals of Grabbitz on “Someone Else.” The two created a sonic environment steeped in suspense as twangy guitars gave rise to a distorted chorus. The drop is two-faced, however, flipping from punchy distortion to screaming melodies in the blink of an eye, a timely reminder that both artists producers with a true knack for keeping listeners on their toes.
"Rain On Me" - Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande
With renowned producers Tchami and Boys Noize attached to the track, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s "Rain On Me" became an instant radio hit that would later pick up a Grammy nomination. Featuring elements of classic disco and house music while feeling distinctively futuristic, the product is a rare crossover that can be enjoyed by dance music veterans and Top 40 listeners alike.
“Clouds (feat. The Wombats)” - Whethan
After months of shuffling and re-shuffling the arrangement of songs on his debut album, FANTASY, Whethan luckily settled on a tracklist that included “Clouds.” Its retro-inspired electronica backbone sets the song’s infectiously sunny mood while the easily recognizable vocal flair of The Wombats’ lead vocalist, Matthew Murphy, blissfully carries listeners through to the track’s conclusion. The flawlessly produced “Clouds” is a fresh, contemporary approach to the dance pop space, forging new territory for what’s possible for the sound.
“Come & Go (feat. Marshmello)” - Juice WRLD
“Come & Go'' is classic Marshmello fare, connecting with listeners via an uplifting wave of kinetic guitar riffs and Juice WRLD’s aching vocals. The posthumous collaboration blends both of their sounds well, serving as a beautiful tribute to the late hip-hop artist.
"Pomegranate" - deadmau5 & The Neptunes
One of the best dance tracks to be released in 2020, "Pomegranate" saw deadmau5 conjure a sound unlike anything fans had heard from him in quite some time. The nu-disco-inspired masterstroke also marked the return of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo's fabled The Neptunes moniker, which is iconic in and of itself.
“Envious” - Aluna
Aluna made her stunning solo debut back in August with her scintillating Renaissance LP, which featured a standout track called "Envious," a disco-infused dance hit. Her previous work with AlunaGeorge is timeless, of course, but the track—and entire album, for that matter—was another formidable example of the fact that she can shine on her own.
“Afterlife” - Spencer Brown & ALPHA 9
Deftly paced and skillfully arranged, the strength of Spencer Brown and ALPHA 9's “Afterlife” comes with the deeply satisfying drop placed in its second half. A masterful instrumental track, “Afterlife” is compelling and intimate, leaning on cleverly arranged synths and a steadily progressing beat to build up to a dreamy, refreshing conclusion.
“Castles In The Sky” - i_o
Days before his tragic death, renowned producer i_o released a phenomenal rework of Ian Van Dahl’s trance classic “Castles In The Sky.” His incredible 2020 refresh brilliantly modernized the beat while retaining the unforgettable synth stabs from the original.
"Sunset Serenade (Taylor Torrence Remix)" - Paul Tarrant
Progressive trance has been dominated in 2020 by rising star Taylor Torrence, whose work earned him not one, but two spots on Armin van Buuren’s "A State Of Trance Year Mix 2020." Torrence offers top-notch production on his remix of Paul Tarrant's "Sunsert Serenade," with some clever nods to the classic trance sound.
“All That I Can” - ALPHA 9
Arty's alter ego ALPHA 9 made a triumphant return to form this year, returning to his home label of Anjunabeats and owning the moment with “All That I Can,” a soaring progressive trance single. The producer set a strong foundation of punchy kicks and crisp snares to back up the track’s invigorating vocal. Sealing the deal with bursting melodic textures and beaming synths, “All That I Can” speaks to ALPHA 9’s strength in crafting songs that leave a lasting impression.
“The Next Chapter (feat. GQ)” - Mat Zo
A tribute to the sounds of the early 2000s, Mat Zo and GQ’s trance heater became a favorite of those firmly embedded in the genre as well as dance music fans who may not know much about it. Since the track's early February release, it has seen support from some of the most respected trance artists in the world and further cemented Zo’s legacy as one of the electronic music greats.